Thursday, January 26, 2012

We Are All Getting Old

Is this our Future?
I have been personally involved in the senior housing industry since my days in the Urban Land Institute (ULI). I was there to help set up the Senior Housing Council and, for almost five years, was able to tour senior housing projects across the United States. I have designed and developed site plans for active adult communities (like the Del Webb Sun Cities), assisted living facilities, and even more complex CCRCs (Continuing Care Retirement Communities), memory care, and other attendant facilities.

But until you are faced with the real issue of a loved one who must be placed in one of these facilities I had no idea about how difficult and complex this process is. It usually begins with a traumatic event (stroke, heart issues, hip/leg breaks, etc.) and time in a hospital emergency room. Then you and your loved one go through a complex process of vetting the type of care they need, then where best to get that care, and then where will they live. Insurance issues, Medicare, medical needs, therapy, and on and on and on. These are steps none of us know or understand. Each step is one of trust. And through this ordeal I have met some truly dedicated people who testify to this trust and take us step by step through the process.

The Baby Boomer generation is over seventy million strong and bracket’s ages currently from about 45 to 65 (we can quibble but this is where the demographic is thickest). Every one of us will, at some time, require access to and need for these facilities. There is as much to learn as when you buy your first house, or get married, or have those kids (who you hope will be there to wipe your chin, if not, it’s $30 an hour). The learning is best done prior to having to wait in an emergency room at 2:00 in the morning on a Friday night.

And the cost for all this is incredible. I joked with someone about three days into this event, I’m turning into a socialist! It seems that Medicare (thanks G. Bush) will cover a substantial amount of this because of the age of the patient – but somebody still has to pay. And that somebody is us. I can sternly wave my libertarian three-cornered hat about, but when you might have to face a bill of over $40,000, even Dr. Ron Paul has to understand this can destroy families.

This blog is about urban issues, Cogito UrbanusThink Urban. And these facilities are integral to our urban future. There is no greater concern by every citizen approaching retirement age than: “How the hell can I afford this? Where will I spend my days when a wheelchair is my only way around? Where will I lay my head and how much help will I need to take a pee? Will I end up in a warehouse full of old people, like me?”

And most start at about $3,000 per month plus special needs, and if you are fortunate to live twenty or thirty years in one of these facilities that is a lot on money. The best way to keep costs under control is build more facilities, competition is paramount (aAnd they employ a lot of people).

These facilities come in all sizes from group/guest homes to multimillion dollar Palm Springs communities. They are wanted by communities and cities as an important part of their urban fabric and social support.

For our part, we were lucky and with excellent guidance we have successfully moved through each stage of care. But a permanent home is still ahead of us; therapy will determine many of the patient final needs. As much as she would love to dance on a table again those days are past, but we all deserve a comfortable place to grow old.

Stay Tuned . . . .

PS. We will Noodle next week.

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